Police investigating Cypriot bishop for statements on homosexuality

Morphou, Cyprus, August 23, 2019

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A hierarch of the Cypriot Orthodox Church has found himself in trouble after statements he made in June on the origin of homosexuality became public recently.

The Nicosia Police have even launched an investigation into the supposed “hate speech” by request of the attorney general and announced that they will be taking a statement from His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, whose statements have caused quite a stir in the media both in Cyprus and internationally.

The commotion began after video surfaced in which Met. Neophytos told the story of a young man who gave up his sinful, homosexual lifestyle after being rebuked by a monk to whom God revealed the man’s sin. When the young man asked how the monk knew of his sinful acts, the monk replied that his sins emitted a foul stench.

As is to be expected, the media widely misunderstood that the bishop was speaking in a spiritual sense, not claiming that homosexual men literally have poor physical hygiene. Such stories are common in ascetic literature. Another roughly contemporary example comes from the life of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, who understood that a certain man had made a grave error in writing a book in support of evolution because he emitted a foul spiritual stench (from the book My Elder Joseph the Hesychast by Elder Ephraim).

Met. Neophytos also relayed a teaching that he attributed to St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, the great 20th-century saint, that the passion of homosexuality can sometimes be traced to unnatural sexual acts committed by parents while the child was in the womb. The passion that arises in the mother’s soul thus has an effect on that of the child in her womb.

St. Paisios the Athonite teaches similarly that the purity of the souls of Sts. Joachim and Anna was passed on to their child, the Most Holy Theotokos in conception (from the book Saint Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac).

Government officials in Cyprus have called Met. Neophytos’ comments “insulting” and "injurious.” The country's human rights commissioner said the remarks were discriminatory, and some have called for serious repercussions. “We want to see him recant and we want to see him defrocked,” said Zacharias Theophanous, a software engineer who has said he will run for Nicosia mayor in 2021, reports the Guardian.

While His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus has distanced himself from the comments, Met. Neophytos has stood his ground. In an interview with Cyprus Mail, he stated: “I expressed the position of the Church and the position of the saints.”

Met. Neophytos has said he will make no further comments on the matter, fully respecting the police investigation. However, at least one bishop, His Eminence Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gortynos and Megalopoleos, has defended Met. Neophytos, affirming that he was “speak[ing] about the corrupting and damaging effects of sin” to help lead his flock into Paradise.

Met. Jeremiah continued:

He called upon the words of a holy father, Father Porphyrios, who said that there are cases where parents are responsible for this sin in their children. And he explained how they are responsible, repeating exactly the words of Saint Porphyrios. And all of us priests, those among us who have a longing for the people of God to be kept clean of sin, each of us in our own way, we all say roughly the same things as that which was spoken by the holy one of Morphou. The holy one of Morphou of course spoke louder and clearer, as he always tends to speak, in accordance with the grace of God which dwells in him. We thank him for his words of salvation.

Met. Jeremiah goes on to compare Met. Neophytos’ words with a number of stories in Scripture that are presented as warnings against sexual sins. He also states that it is not inappropriate for a clergyman to make public statements about such acts, “to discourage Christians away from obscenity and telling them how much such obscenities banish the grace of God from their families.”

“Why do these words bother people, since they are the words of a holy father, St. Porphyrios?” Met. Jeremiah asks.

Conversely, Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Chicago completely condemned Met. Neophytos’ statements, saying, “I am sorrowed by the emotional and spiritual harm that can and does result from ignorant and prurient statements like these. For such a failure of discretion in a bishop, there can be no excuse; neither should anyone attempt to offer exculpation by appeal to the dignity or authority of his office.”

“Please let me emphasize that what was said was both factually and morally wrong and is wholly inconsistent with Church teachings. The Metropolitan of Morphou does not speak the heart and mind of the Orthodox Church on this issue,” he continued.

He also forbids his clergy from teaching the same as did Met. Neophtyos.

According to vimaorthodoxias.gr, the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Orthodox Church could discuss the matter at its upcoming session.

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